Five years after 4 siblings got new home, Delhi foster care has good news
In December 2011, when four siblings — aged 14, 11, 7 and 3 — were rescued from a factory in Jalandhar, Punjab, they faced a bleak future. They were brought to Delhi and the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) declared their parents — who were drug addicts — unfit for custody. In May 2012, the parents died of drug overdose within a gap of two-three days and the four kids were staring at the prospect of ending up in a shelter home — just like thousands of others languishing across the national capital.
But in February 2013, the CWC Lajpat Nagar received a first-of-its-kind proposal in which a couple offered to provide foster care to these children.
The foster care scheme, a non-institutional family care programme for children in the age group of 6-18, had been lying pending with the department of women and child development for years. But an exception was made in this case and in October 2013, the CWC accepted the proposal— allowing the couple to take the children to their flat in south Delhi.
Due to care and monitoring, the four siblings — now 21, 18, 14 and 10 years old — are doing well. The elder siblings are getting trained in nursing and music while the younger ones are enrolled at a prominent city school.
“I saw the eldest child at a shelter home and expressed the desire to take care of her. As under foster care the entire family needs to stay together, I did not mind taking care of the rest of them. People warned me, my parents were against it as there is a social stigma attached to it but I went ahead. The result is now positive as all of them are settled,” said the father, an MBA, who left his job in 2008 to work for poor children in shelter homes.
Typically, foster parents receive government funds. But in this case, in the absence of a policy, the family was not paid by the authorities. Officials said that in 2016, the central government issued guidelines stating that an amount not less than Rs 2,000 should be allocated per month per child in foster care cases.
Experts say foster care is one of the most effective mechanisms for the rehabilitation of children. Under the programme, a child lives on a temporary basis with the foster parents. After turning 18, the child can decide if he wants to continue living with them. Both have no legal rights on each other after 18.
While the Juvenile Justice Act always had a provision of foster care, the Delhi government had never implemented it. A proposal was moved in 2009 but was shot down by the planning department.
The success of the Lajpat Nagar case has now propelled the department of women and child development to consider reviving the scheme. In September 2017, the government formed a committee to decide foster cases.
The government admitted that the scheme had been around for the last 10 years but the department has not implemented it. “A national consultation on foster care and sponsorship is scheduled in the first week of February . Department of women and child development along with Jamia University is doing it. We have set up all 11 DCPUs (district child protection units) in November 2017. DCPU is the main implementing agency of d scheme in field,” the department said in a written reply to Hindustan Times query.
The department said that presently four children from Nirmal Chaya are under consideration for foster care and family verification is under process. “Formal launch of the scheme is planned once all the stakeholders get training by February end,” the department said.
Child rights activists say foster care and sponsorship scheme are the best ways to rehabilitate children.
“These are children are vulnerable and can turn to crime. If you see juveniles involved in crime, most of them are from broken families. According to National Crime Records Bureau data, more than six crimes were committed by children every day in Delhi last year. We can prevent it by timely interference and providing best facilities,” said Yogesh Kumar of Association for Development (AFD), an NGO.
According to guidelines issued by the Union ministry, children in the age group 0-6 years shall not ordinarily be considered for placement in long-term foster care as such small children should be preferably provided a permanent family through adoption. While children in the age group of 6-18 years who have been staying in child care institutions; shall be placed in foster care based on their individual care plan developed in the institution.
Children whose parents are terminally ill and have submitted a request to the committee or the District Child Protection Unit for taking care of their child as they are unable to take care of their child should also be considered for foster care.
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